Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Drops

These cookies are a remake of the chocolate cookies from Food Network's 50 Holiday Cookies. I changed both the sugar and the leavener from the original recipe and I also cut down the salt. If you recall from a previous post, these cookies were sort of hard and dry in texture, and the salt grains didn't seem to dissolve into the batter. By changing to brown sugar and baking soda from white sugar and baking powder, respectively, the resulting cookies were soft and chewy, which seems to be the most favored texture in a cookie by most of the people I know. My secret ingredient in this recipe was coffee, which not only added moisture that the original recipe was lacking, but as Ina Garten of the show Barefoot Contessa has pointed out, accentuated the chocolate flavor.

The name of the recipe came from a little brain storming from my family, who were the guinea pigs for this cookie recipe. They had to endure the overly salted first edition so I thought they deserved to have some say in the name for these little drop cookies.

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Drops

1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 stick room temperature unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp cooled prepared coffee
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chunks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until fluffy, then beat in the egg, vanilla, and coffee. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the four, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined, then fold in the chocolate chunks.
4. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper, then arrange 2 tsp-sized mounds of dough onto the parchment. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottom edge of the cookies are just firm. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet at least 5 minutes, then slip the parchment paper off the pan and allow the cookies to continue to cool on the parchment. Makes about 3 dozen small cookies.

Per cookie:
Calories: 90
Fat: 4.3 g
Saturated fat: 2.7 g
Cholesterol: 13 mg
Sodium: 60 mg
Carbohydrates: 12.4 g
Fiber: 0.7 g
Sugar: 7.3 g
Protein: 1.3 g

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

French Baguette Strata

I like to prepare a special breakfast on Christmas morning, and this year I decided to make a strata. I used a day-old French baguette (the thin kind) that I had found on the half-price rack at the store, so this recipe starts out very budget-friendly. I used some leftover Christmas eve ham and then matched it with nutty Swiss cheese and sweet scallions. The secret ingredient in this strata is a little Dijon mustard, which might sound odd in combination with eggs, but what it really adds is spice and lightens what could be a heavy dish. I did try and keep this recipe lean by using reduced fat cheese and egg whites.

What I love about this strata is that it really embodies what the word means: layers. You have layers of pink ham, green scallions, off-white cheese, yellow eggs and the cheesy, crispy, browned bread and cheese layer. If you are having a brunch, this recipe is ideal because it cuts down on the prep work you'll need to do the morning of the brunch.

French Baguette Strata

4 eggs
4 egg whites
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
4 oz lean ham, cut into tiny cubes
2 scallions, sliced
4 oz reduced fat Swiss cheese
8 oz day-old French baguette (about 16 1/4-inch slices)
salt and pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites, milk, mustard, and salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
2. Spray a 1.5-quart shallow baking pan with non-stick spray. Layer the ham, scallion, and 3/4 of the cheese. Arrange the bread slices decoratively on top, then pour the egg mixture over, allowing each piece of bread to be coated with the egg mixture. Press each piece of bread down into the pan to allow it to soak up some egg. Top the bread with the remaining cheese.
3. Cover the strata and set the strata in the refrigerator overnight. If you have time, press the bread down into the egg mixture at least one more time while the strata marinates.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the strata in the oven, uncovered, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the egg is set and the top is browned. Allow the strata to cool about 5 minutes before serving.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 362
Fat: 11.7 g
Saturated fat: 4.5 g
Cholesterol: 213 mg
Sodium: 838 mg
Carbohydrates: 35.5 g
Fiber: 1.6 g
Sugar: 3 g
Protein: 31.3 g

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lasagna Soup

Sometimes it seems like recipes are remakes of good old favorites. You prepare your old standby, but make little changes in order to perfect it. That's all well and good, but sometimes you just need to think outside the box and take your old favorite recipe and put it into a new context. That's what I did last night after I'd had an epiphany earlier in the week: one of my favorite foods of all time is lasagna, but what if you took the components of lasagna and turned them into one of my other favorite winter foods, soup. It just seemed to make total sense. Instead of an elaborate layered pasta dish, it would be a tomato soup with ruffly pasta, Italian sausage, and spinach, which all go into my favorite lasagna recipe. To get the cheesiness, the soup would be topped with mozzarella and a mixture of ricotta and Parmesan for a creamy topping. This is like a lighter version of the usual heavy lasagna, so if you are watching your weight this would be a great substitute.

The only problem I had with this recipe is that I intended to use lasagnette, which are like the big lasagna sheets, but miniaturized. I chose a different ruffly pasta, radiatore (which means radiator, in Italian) because they would also look beautiful in the soup. If you have trouble finding either of these, any small, pretty pasta would work, including fusilli, rotini, or gemelli. Feel free to add your favorite herbs and vegetables as well, if you wish.

Lasagna Soup

3 turkey Italian sausage links, casings removed
3 clove garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, minced
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups marinara sauce
2 cups water
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp brown sugar (optional, if the marinara is too acidic)
1 cup uncooked pasta
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp part-skim ricotta cheese
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp skim milk
1 1/2 cups 2% milk mozzarella cheese
non-stick cooking spray
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat a non-stick soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until it is no longer pink, crumbling it as it cooks. Add the onion and garlic and saute them until the onion is transparent.
2. Add the broth, marinara, water, basil, thyme, sugar, if using, and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the pasta and cook the pasta according to package directions.
3. While the pasta is cooking, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, and milk in a small bowl. Mix to combine and set aside.
4. When the pasta only has 2 more minutes to cook, add the spinach and allow it to wilt down.
5. Serve the pasta with a sprinkle of mozzarella and a dollop of the ricotta mixture on top as garnishes.

Servings per recipe: 6
Per serving:
Calories: 262
Fat: 11.6 g
Saturated fat: 4.7 g
Cholesterol: 54 mg
Sodium: 893 mg
Carbohydrates: 17.5 g
Fiber: 2.6 g
Sugar: 8.5 g
Protein: 21 g

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Images of Christmas From Indiana

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for the visiting foodie. I had to blog some my Christmas experiences while it was still Christmas! While the pics I'm posting aren't related to food, they are some lovely images related to my Christmastime in Indiana, which include visiting the circle of lights in Indianapolis.

I will have lots more pictures of the rest of my holiday very soon, including recipes!

Here are the lights on the circle. Underneath this statue there is a Civil War museum!

This LED Christmas tree was my favorite thing at the circle. I wish I could have this in my house!

Here I am having a warm-up at Starbucks! I hope you have a lovely holiday and enjoyed my Indy pictures.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chicken, White Bean, and Corn Soup

Christmas is just days away and I'm happy to say that I'm starting to feel as giddy as a little kid...I'm happy that I can at least still feel that way! I've been able to push away the stress of data entry and thesis writing to enjoy my family, wrapping presents, and cooking for the holiday season.

The other day I made my first batch of cookies for the holiday, but honestly I didn't think they were good enough to post. The recipe was for basic chocolate cookies and came from Food Network's 50 Holiday Cookies, which was an insert in their latest magazine issue. The dough was so ridiculously dry...even after mixing with both a spoon and my hand, I had some chocolaty flour stuck in the bottom of the bowl. There wasn't enough moisture to dissolve the salt in the mixture, so when you bite into the cookies you occasionally get a raw grain of salt on your tongue...yuck. I really did measure and read the recipe carefully, so I don't think it was me. I think the proportions in the recipe are off. The cookies weren't inedible, and they aren't so bad that I won't make them again, but I will have to tweak the recipe. I hope there's more to come on this issue later.

For dinner tonight, I got the crockpot out again to make something easy and warming. The recipe is derived from a recipe I clipped from a Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker advertisement. It's supposed to be chili, but I found the recipe wasn't thick enough to be a chili, so it's going to be a soup now. It has white kidney (cannellini) beans instead of red ones. It also has chicken, and instead of canned corn, which would taste really overcooked after cooking all day, I used frozen. I also bumped up the spices by including ground coriander and chili powder. I had to add the coriander because I can't have cumin without coriander---they're like spice twins! This recipe is really healthy because there is no oil added to the recipe, and it has white meat chicken as well. I'm going to serve it with fat-free cornbread for a well-rounded winter dinner.

Also, I want to point out that this is my 100th blog post! I'm so happy to have started and maintained this blog. It's my solace and escape when my life away from the computer gets stressful. It used to be that cooking was my main source of relaxation, but this blog takes it to the nth degree. I thank everyone who has stopped by Chow Bella for a read (and a taste)!

Chicken, White Bean, and Corn Soup

2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes, with the juice
2 15-oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (optional)
2 tsp packed brown sugar
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
salt, to taste

1. Add all the ingredients to the crockpot. Cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low.

Servings per recipe: 6
Per serving:
Calories: 316
Fat: 3.3 g
Saturated fat: 0.8 g
Cholesterol: 48 mg
Sodium: 254 mg
Carbohydrates: 42.2 g
Fiber: 14.7 g
Sugar: 7.4 g
Protein: 31.1 g

Friday, December 18, 2009

Apple Spice Cake

This recipe for apple spice cake was part of our thanksgiving meal, so many weeks ago. The recipe was clipped from a magazine by my mom and pasted into her recipe collection. I wish I knew what magazine it was from---I'm going to guess Health, but I could be wrong. What appealed to me about this cake was that it included whole wheat flour. My early days of using whole wheat flour as a substitute when baking resulted in several disasters such as seized dough and heavy, flat baked goods. Therefore, this was an experiment to see if it was possible to make a light, moist cake. Most of the moisture in this cake can be attributed to the apple chunks, which, along with the nuttiness of the whole wheat flour, give the cake a rustic feel. One derivation I made from the recipe is that I peeled the apples. I didn't really read the recipe too closely, so my extra step was a mistake, however I think having the peels in on the apples would interrupt the texture of the cake. As my family and I observed, this is almost a snack cake or tea time cake just because it just seems more easy to eat right out of your hand instead of on a proper plate with a fork. This makes a great breakfast, too, along with coffee or tea. A plain glaze would be a great addition to this cake, but powdered sugar was just enough to dress up this simple, amber-colored cake. I think it would be great to add raisins or substitute the apples for other seasonal fruit. Also, there is indeed a whole tablespoon of cinnamon, but this would probably be great with pumpkin pie or apple pie spice, or any other combination of your favorite spices.

Apple Spice Cake

3/4 cup unbleached granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups peeled, chopped apples
1 cup chopped walnuts
non-stick cooking spray
1-2 tbsp powdered sugar, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13x9-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine sugars, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and eggs. Beat on low speed until blended. Add all other ingredients except apples and nuts and beat on low speed, about 1 minute, until blended. Fold in apples and nuts. Spread batter in pan.
3. Bake 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack about 1 hour.
4. Decorate the cooled cake with a little powdered sugar or make a plain glaze.

Servings per recipe: 20
Per serving:
Calories: 240
Fat: 10 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 20 mg
Sodium: 150 mg
Carbohydrates: 34 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sugar: 18 g
Protein: 4 g

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Butternut Squash-Cheddar-Apple Soup

While I was bored at the airport on Saturday I purchased the latest Food Network magazine. One of the more interesting recipes was for a butternut squash soup with both sharp cheddar and apples. I wanted to prepare it for my family, but with the high fat and sodium content it wasn't very sensitive to their low-fat and low-sodium diet. I made a few changes to the recipe in order to make this soup more healthful and ended up with the best butternut squash soup I have ever tasted. My version also cuts about 100 calories and 16 grams of fat (12 of which are saturated!) I have found many butternut squash soups to be disappointing before because they are overly spiced and overly sweet and seem to be approaching pumpkin pie territory. This version was not, however. It was wonderfully savory, mainly because of the sharp cheddar cheese and potato. The apple and onion added just enough sweetness and there were no pie spices, just a little bit of earthy sage. For people who like cheddar cheese soup, this is a great change of pace. This soup is even more easy to prepare than cheddar cheese soup because that all the vegetable pulp seems to stabilize the melted cheese, preventing graininess upon standing.

Butternut Squash-Cheddar-Apple Soup

1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
2 peeled, diced apples
1 large white potato, peeled and diced (dice more finely than the apple for better cooking time)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tbsp dried sage
2 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup apple cider
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup skim milk
2 cups grated 2% milk sharp cheddar cheese (reserve 4 tbsp for garnish)
4 tbsp chopped walnuts
non-stick cooking spray

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat, then spray it with non-stick cooking spray. Add the squash, apples, potato, and onion and saute until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add the sage and flour and cook until the vegetables are coated. Add the cider and cook over high heat until the vegetables are coated with the thick sauce. Add the broth and milk and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover; cook 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
3. Add the cheese to the soup, and once it has melted, puree the soup using an immersion blender or with a regular blender in about 3 batches. When blending with a regular blender, remove the center stopper from the lid, to prevent a vacuum effect in the blender, and then cover the top with the lid along with a folded kitchen towel.
4. Garnish each bowl with walnuts and the reserved cheese.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 434
Fat: 18.4 g
Saturated fat: 7.8 g
Cholesterol: 41 mg
Sodium: 1159 mg
Carbohydrates: 41.6 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sugar: 16.4 g
Protein: 28.1 g

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

Here is the side dish that I served along with my Mustard-Apple Pork Loin. I've been making potatoes like this for years because on the one hand they are like healthy, fancy french fries, and on the other hand they can be seen as the perfect side dish to a roast dinner. The Parmesan helps the potatoes brown and become crisp. As far as selecting Parmesan, you don't need anything that is fancily grated...just get the kind that comes in the shake jar that's on the pasta sauce aisle (the type that I affectionately called "shakey cheese" when I was a kid.)

Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

5-6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 lb), each cut into 8-10 wedges
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp dried parsley
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
non-stick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, then coat with cooking spray.
3. Toss the potatoes with the salt, pepper, parsley, olive oil, and Parmesan. Dump the potatoes onto the pan and spread into a thin layer.
4. Bake the potatoes 35-40 minutes, tossing once in between, or until the potatoes are soft on the inside and crispy-brown on the outside.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 149
Fat: 7.6 g
Saturated fat: 1.4 g
Cholesterol: 2 mg
Sodium: 46 mg
Carbohydrates: 18 g
Fiber: 2.8 g
Sugar: 1.3 g
Protein: 2.9 g

Mustard-Apple Pork Loin

Here's another take on the flavors of the season---apples and apple cider. Both of these flavors, of course, pair well with pork. Pork loin is a particularly lean protein, especially if you take the time to trim any excess fat. Most of the time, I find it to be a bit pricey, but at the grocery store back home it was miraculously in-budget. Last night I cooked the pork loin in the crockpot (which is of course easy to do). . I don't personally believe that just chucking all the ingredients in the crock pot induces the best flavor, so one thing that I did to maximize flavor was to brown the pork in a pan, then deglaze the pan with the apple cider before placing it in the crockpot. Also, I used my very favorite type of apple, McIntosh apples, which I believe have the best flavor of all apples---sweet, tangy, and a little spicy. The apples turn into a chunky, savory applesauce studded with sweet onion. The pork was served with Parmesan roasted potatoes (recipe to

Mustard-Apple Pork Loin

2 lb pork loin, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 tsp dried sage
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp dried sage
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
2 medium apples, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch wedges
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tbsp coarse ground mustard
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (1 spring of thyme)

1. Pre-heat the crockpot over low or high heat, depending on the setting you want to cook the pork on.
2. Sprinkle the pork with sage, salt, and pepper. Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, then spray with non-stick cooking spray. Add the pork and brown on all sides.
3. Remove the pork to the crockpot. Add the onions, apples, apple cider, and mustard to the pan the pork was browned in; allow the onions to become translucent and scrape up the browned bits from the pork on the bottom of the pan.
4. Pour the hot apple mixture onto the pork; sprinkle with thyme. Cook the pork on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours. Slice the pork and serve it with the apples, onions, and jus.

Servings per recipe: 8
Per serving:
Calories: 306
Fat: 15.9 g
Saturated fat: 5.9 g
Cholesterol: 91 mg
Sodium: 72 mg
Carbohydrates: 8 g
Fiber: 1.2 g
Sugar: 5.8 g
Protein: 31.2 g

Butternut Squash and Cranberry Bread

I'm back home in Indiana enjoying winter break. I've been back since Saturday and I'm doing well to remember what relaxation really is. For me, true relaxation involves cooking, which seemed like an indulgence for me over the last month of busyness. One of the first things I prepared while home was a recipe my mom has been wanting to prepare for a while. It was featured in the magazine Taste of Home: Simple and Delicious. It was supposed to be Cranberry and Pumpkin Bread, but due to some strange events the recipes took a few changes. One of the strangest changes involved using butternut squash because, as one fellow shopper at the grocery store told us, there is a shortage in pumpkin this year...which sounds very strange indeed. The other not so strange change made involved using walnuts instead of pecans because we forgot to buy them. Nevertheless, this bread was a triumph of ingenuity: a nicely spiced bread featuring two popular holiday flavors---butternut squash and cranberries.

Butternut Squash and Cranberry Bread

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 eggs
2 cups butternut squash puree*
1 cup canola oil
2/3 cup unbleached sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts

* To prepare the squash puree, cut a medium butternut squash in half from top to bottom. Scoop the seeds out. Place the squash halves, cut side down, into a large bowl containing about 1/2-inch of water in the bottom. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave the squash for 15 minutes or until the flesh is soft and scoopable. Discard the skin and mash the pulp. Allow the pulp to cool to room temperature before proceeding.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices.
3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and add the squash, oil, sugars, and vanilla. Blend well, then fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.
4. Pour the batter into two greased 8 x 4-inch loaf pans. Bake 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the loaves 10 minutes in the pans, then remove to continue to cool on a wire rack.

Servings per recipe: 24
Per slice:
Calories: 223
Fat: 12.9 g
Saturated fat: 1.1 g
Cholesterol: 23 mg
Sodium: 159 mg
Carbohydrates: 24.1 g
Fiber: 1.3 g
Sugar: 10 g
Protein: 3.7 g

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Italian Sausage, Chicken, and Bean Soup

It's that soup time of year again, but the sad thing is a I wrote and cooked this recipe for the first time months ago when it was still a warm Georgia autumn. I, unlike most people, had been waiting all summer, pining for the cooler months of winter. Soup is practically an icon of winter eating, so I had to prepare soup even in the heat.

This soup combines veggies and lots of protein in the form of chicken, sausages, and beans. One of my favorite new ingredients are in this soup: fire roasted tomatoes. If you're going to use canned tomatoes, why not use ones that have the most flavor possible? I also suggest you add Parmesan cheese to add some extra flavor.

By the way, I should probably admit that this soup will not win any beauty contests, but it is freakin delicious, which is all that really matters.

Italian Sausage, Chicken, and Bean Soup

2 turkey Italian sausages, casings removed and torn into chunks
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 lb diced boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried basil
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1. Add all the ingredients to your crockpot. Cook for 6-8 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.
2. Remove the bay leaf before serving. As an optional garnish, add Parmesan cheese.

Serving per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 363
Fat: 13.4 g
Saturated fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 74 mg
Sodium: 657 mg
Carbohydrates: 26.7 g
10.1 g
Protein: 33.6 g

Thanksgiving with Friends

I know it's already December, thus making a post of Thanksgiving a bit late. I decided to post anyway because I am proud of the spread my friends and I set up for an early Thanksgiving party. I made an apple tart and sweet potato crisp, which you can see in the pictures. Also, here is a glimpse of the whole table, complete with two types of cranberry sauce. The main course was tur-duc-hen, which is basically a tasty abomination of the protein world: a boned chicken and duck stuffed inside a partially-boned turkey, along with stuffing. Weird, but good.

Here's my friend carving up the tur-duc-hen. You can see all the layers of meat and stuffing. It was Cajun-spiced, and you can see all the paprika and other spices on the outside too.

Here's a pic of the whole spread along with both of my desserts (but, the sweet potatoes can be a side dish if you wish). We had pumpkin pie, squash casserole, creamed corn casserole, squash casserole, mac n cheese, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and a pumpkin roll...I'm sure I'm missing a few things in that list. We had a lot of food!

French Apple Tart and Sweet Potato Crisp

Monday, December 7, 2009

German Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats

The graduate students in my biology department decided to have an advisor appreciation day where we would bring some nibbles in to show our appreciation to them. I had marshmallows left over from a camping trip that never happened, so I decided to make rice crispy treats, which are of course cheap and easy. For some reason I couldn't bring myself to slap some plain old rice crispy treats, all naked and beige, on the table. I decided to make the love child of rice crispy treats and a German Chocolate Cake instead: chocolate rice crispies studded with pecans and coconut and topped with melted chocolate.

Also, I have some fun facts about German Chocolate Cake that will impress your friends at your next dinner party. German Chocolate Cake does not have German origins. It was a cake recipe based off a formulation of Baker's brand chocolate which was developed by a British man whose last name was German. German's chocolate has a high cocoa butter content and only 46% cocoa solids, which means it has a light chocolate taste and rich consistency because of the fats. It was particularly marketed towards elderly people because it was thought that they needed the fat content for their health. The original cake recipe was called "German's Chocolate Cake," but due to printing purposes, the apostrophe "s" was dropped.

Also, to make this even easier, skip melting the chocolate and instead buy mini chocolate chips and press them directly on top of the warm cereal once it's in the pan.

German Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats

6 tbsp butter, divided
10 oz marshmallows, either small ones or large ones
4 cups chocolate rice crispy cereal
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

1. In a large saucepan, melt 3 tbsp butter and marshmallows together until smooth.
2. Add the cereal, coconut, and pecans and stir vigorously until they are all coated with marshmallow.
3. Press the cereal mixture into a 2-qt buttered baking dish. Butter the bottom of a measuring cup and use it to press the mixture flat.
4. In the microwave or double boiler, melt the remaining 3 tbsp butter with the chocolate. Pour and spread the chocolate on top of the cereal. Allow it to set up until firm, then serve. Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 days. These are richer than your average rice crispy treats, so cut into approximately 24 pieces.

For 1/24th of the recipe:
Calories: 106
Fat: 5.8 g
Saturated fat: 3.1 g
Cholesterol: 8 mg
Sodium: 48.8 mg
Carbohydrates: 13.5 g
Fiber:0.5 g
Sugar: 7.3 g
Protein: 0.53 g

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Spaghetti with Olives and Artichokes

As you can probably tell, I am still quite busy. Finals week is coming up and not only do I have exams to take but I am giving my first exam as well. My Thanksgiving break was not only occupied by exam writing, but also with statistical analyses for my data, grant/scholarship writing, and general studying. I have two more weeks of school, however, and then I am on winter break, which I am hoping will be more relaxing.

This week is no less busy than the weeks before break, so an easy dinner was a necessity tonight. I used thin spaghetti---which is thankfully quick cooking when compared to regular spaghetti---along with canned fire-roasted tomatoes, artichokes, and olives to make a simple sauce. I tried to go along with the Italian method of not over-saucing the pasta, as well as allowing the pasta sauce to cook in the sauce a few minutes while it was being thoroughly tossed. Less sauce tossed completely over the pasta along with cooking the pasta with the sauce are two great tips if you want to make your pasta dishes truer to real Italian dishes.

Spaghetti with Olives and Artichokes

4 oz whole wheat thin spaghetti
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, minced
1 14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3/4 cup sliced black olives
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
1 14-oz can water-packed quartered artichoke hearts, drained
salt and pepper, to taste

1. While the pasta water is coming to the boil, heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil to the saucepan and allow it to heat, then add the garlic and onion. Saute the garlic and onion until translucent and fragrant.
2. Add the tomatoes, olives, oregano, and sugar to the onion mixture. Allow the ingredients to simmer over medium to medium-high heat while the pasta is cooking in salted water.
3. Right before the pasta is done, toss in the artichokes and allow them to heat through. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss thoroughly until each strand is coated with sauce.
4. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Servings per recipe: 3
Per serving:
Calories: 232
Fat: 6.4 g
Saturated fat: 0.9 g
Cholesterol: 28 mg
Sodium: 373 mg
Carbohydrates: 38.8 g
Fiber:6.7 g
Sugar:6.2 g
Protein: 8.3 g
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